Food trends come and go. Perfect example? Frozen yogurt.
A few decades ago, it seemed every mall in America had a frozen yogurt shop. Then came the ’90s and frozen yogurt disappeared along with Members Only jackets.
Enter national chains such as Pinkberry, Orange Leaf and Menchie’s, which have infused the old froyo concept with a serve-yourself yogurt model. It took a few years to arrive in South Sound, but now it’s here in a big way in the form of chains and locally owned stores. Stores are opening so quickly, I can barely keep up. From the time I began reporting this story in early April until now, two stores have opened - Yo! G’s in Gig Harbor and the chain Menchie’s in Puyallup's Sunrise Village. In the time that it takes you to read this sentence, I'm sure another store will open. And there's more - Proctor Frozen Yogurt is expected to open in May. In March, The Freeze opened in University Place. Gibson’s Frozen Yogurt, which opened in February 2011 in the Stadium neighborhood, just announced a second location in Westgate. Black Bear, which opened in Lakewood in 2010, is about to open its second store.
With all the choices we now have, I thought it time I took to the streets to evaluate our local offerings. Here’s how they rated:
How it worksPriced by the ounce: All but one yogurt shop (Black Bear in Lakewood) sampled for this review are self serve and priced by the ounce for yogurt and toppings.Sampling: Free and encouraged at every shopAbout the yogurt: Flavors vary daily at each shop, but all frozen yogurt sampled for this report comes from YoCream, a Portland-based frozen yogurt supplier. In addition to YoCream flavors, Menchie’s offers flavors not made by YoCream.Calories: 70-140 for a half-cup serving. The low end of that scale is for nonfat yogurt, and every shop offered a nonfat version.
Elements Frozen YogurtWhere: 333 S. Meridian, PuyallupInfo: 253-256-4172, elementsfroyo.comHours: Noon-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, noon-11 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. SaturdaysYogurt: YoCream yogurt in 10 flavors priced at 45 cents an ounce. Flavors on my visit: vanilla, blackberry, coffee, milk chocolate, dulce de leche, raspberry, cake batter, tart, pomegranate raspberry and Red Bull. Yes, that’s right, they serve yogurt flavored with Red Bull energy drink.Toppings: Elements wins the mom stamp of approval for most fresh fruit toppings with seven, including expensive products such as raspberries, blackberries and mango. Elements also wins for most toppings – 64 of them – which ran the gamut of sugary candies to chocolates and crumbled cookies and candy bars.The shop: Curved white bucket seats look space age-y. Floating, wavy plastic light fixtures cast a cheery blue hue on polished concrete floors.Opened: July 2011 by Bryan Reynolds, a Puyallup native and Rogers High School graduate, who also owns Anthem coffee houses in Tacoma and Puyallup.
Gibson’s Frozen Yogurt ShoppeWhere: 8 N. Tacoma Ave., TacomaInfo: 253-302-3856, gibsonsyogurt.comHours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays.Yogurt: YoCream yogurt in eight flavors priced at 43 cents an ounce. Flavors on my visit: raspberry, strawberry, lemon, snickerdoodle, watermelon, tart, dark chocolate and vanillaToppings: About 36. Fresh fruit included mangoes, blackberries, pineapple and blueberries. Sugar options were heavy on candy chips and hard candies, light on crushed candy bars.The shop: Sparkling clean and always bustling. Yogurt is in the back, toppings are in the front.Opened: February 2011 by local husband-wife team Jim Gibson and Judy Jones. They started the shop after Gibson, who constructs cellphone towers, was temporarily working in California and discovered yogurt shops aplenty. The store has been so successful, they’re opening a second location in Westgate at 5916 N. 26th St. They hope to be up and running in May.
The FreezeWhere: 3806 Bridgeport Way W., University PlaceHours: Noon-9 p.m. Tuesdays-SundaysYogurt: YoCream in 10 flavors priced at 45 cents an ounce. Flavors on my visit: coconut, mango, pomegranate raspberry, red velvet cake, blackberry, cheesecake, chocolate, peanut butter, cookies ’n’ cream and cake batterToppings: About 22 with an emphasis on candy chips and crushed candies, with four fresh fruit choices. Blueberries tasted past their prime.The shop: Small, cute, clean and well laid out. It has a large outdoor patio seating area, which will make it a hit for families this summer.Opened: March
Black Bear YogurtWhere: 8520 Steilacoom Blvd., LakewoodInfo: 253-292-1260, blackbearyogurt.comHours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. dailyYogurt: YoCream in six flavors with four set prices: $3.39 small, $4.49 medium, $5.59 large and $8.59 quart. Toppings are additional (63 cents-$1.49 for one to three toppings). Flavors on my visit: vanilla, tart, dulce de leche, banana, chocolate and cappuccinoToppings: About 30. Light on fresh fruit with only one choice on my visit; heavy on packaged, crushed candiesThe shop: While most frozen yogurt stores rate cute with a big C, Black Bear is decidedly masculine with leather seating around a see-through fireplace, sturdy chairs and wood accents.Opened: 2010 by Jesse and Christina Roberge. The local couple will open a second location in a few weeks at Bridgeport and Mount Tacoma in Lakewood.
Menchie’sWhere: 10306 156th St. E., PuyallupInfo: 253-770-1330Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 11 a.m-11 p.m. Fridays-SaturdaysYogurt: 14 choices at 45 cents an ounce. Flavors on my visit: blackberry, strawberry lemonade sorbet, peanut butter and jelly, mango dole whip, pineapple dole whip, pistachio, black cherry tart, regular tart, cake batter, peanut butter, chocolate, vanilla, cheesecake and pina coladaToppings: About 45. Four fresh fruit toppings, but minus 5 mom points for browning bananas. Most toppings were crushed candy bars, cookies and sweet bits.The shop: Did someone transport me to Willy Wonka land? Purely cute and girly, with candy shop pink and companion hues of white and neon green. Pop music pulses through the store and cheery counter workers yell perky greetings. This might delight or irritate you, but I thought it was sweet.Opened: In Puyallup in early April. This nationally franchised frozen yogurt chain has stores all over the country. JUST OPENED
Yo! G’s Gig Harbor Frozen Yogurt
Where: 4784 Borgen Blvd N.W., Gig Harbor
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
The store: Just opened this week, a self-serve yogurt shop with more than 50 toppings and 10 yogurt flavors from YoCream. The store is locally owned by Rebecca and Rudy Kaldor. Family members own a sister shop of the same name in Poulsbo, which opened in October 2011.COMING SOON
Proctor Frozen Yogurt
Where: 2510 N. Proctor, Tacoma.
The store: Sonja Silver and Craig Fite will open Proctor Frozen Yogurt where Jubilee Cupcakes used to be. In the front will be the yogurt store; in the back will be Silver’s clothing store, Sonja Clothes To Live In. The serve-yourself yogurt shop will serve YoCream frozen yogurt in eight flavors and will start with about 18 toppings. Silver is a Tacoma native and a third-generation Tacoman.HOW THEY RATED Best deal:
Gibson’s, at 43 cents an ounce. Menchies, Elements and The Freeze charge 45 cents an ounce. Black Bear charges set prices for four sizes.Mom stamp of approval:
Elements, for the most fresh fruit options. While competitors had two to four fresh fruit toppings, Elements had seven on my visit: kiwi, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, mangoesand pineapple. All were incredibly fresh.Most toppings:
Elements, with 64Most kid-friendly staff:
All are, but Elements was especially kid-friendly. The store also caters to kids with Wii tournaments and family movies.Most yogurt flavors:
Menchie’s, with 14.Cleanest shop:
Gibson’s sparkled.Best seating:
Black Bear had the most spacious store.
Our pledge to readers: Sue Kidd dines anonymously and all meals are paid for by The News Tribune. Reach her at 253-597-8270.